The recent frenzy of acquisition and consolidation in the social media space is reminiscent of many other boom periods in specific industries. With a wave of social media acquisitions that really came into prominence with the recent acquisitions of CMS vendors Vitrue and Buddy Media, there certainly are those out there that are riding that wave to glory.
Yet this is also a time that marketing consultants Ed Keller and Brad Fay liken to the Gold Rush in 1848. They point out that while this period brought fame and riches to some, for many others it was a farce, a period in which great promise bought little return due to the abandonment of reason by those attracted by its riches.
Keller and Fay carry out a survey that measures offline word-of-mouth, a service called TalkTrack, which dives into what gets consumers really talking. Their research shows that 90 percent of conversations about products, services and brands that take place every day happen offline, maintains that the conversations that we have online are wildly different to those we have offline and warns against what I label Bright Shiny Object Syndrome (this is the desire to blindly follow the latest trend without looking at a true goal or purpose, often leading to botched programs and unsuccessful activations).
Keller and Fay make many valid points in the book, all around what drives word of mouth and how marketers should take the time to understand how their end target will share information. It also maintains that social media are ultimately about people.
On reading it, this ultimately made me connect back to the principles of good social media and how their theories relate to the work we are doing. I have always strongly supported the importance of IRL – in real life – in all we do. I also support the “people theory.” Put otherwise, human beings are at our core fundamentally social. We are, and always have been, guided by the drivers of influence. All good social media practitioners will base their work on social behaviors rather than the latest trend.
At Ogilvy, we combine different theories of human behavior to drive impactful social that scales. One of the most effective theorists in the space is Robert Cialdini, seen by many in the industry as the Godfather of Influence.
His “six drivers” is a very useful list, and one that can be held up to any program to check off and ensure its effectiveness.
- Reciprocity — People tend to return a favor, thus the pervasiveness of free samples in marketing. The latest skilled examples of reciprocity are companies such as Tom’s Shoes or Warby Parker. While tapping into the social consciousness of the moment with the buy one pair (of shoes/glasses) and we donate one (to those in need) mantra, both companies also build immediate loyalty with the reciprocal relationship a purchase establishes.
- Commitment and Consistency — If people commit, orally or in writing, to an idea or goal, they are more likely to honor that commitment because of establishing that goal publicly. Weight Watchers has tapped into this for many years with their weekly meetings, and are now doing this to great effect in the online and social space, with over 1 million fans on Facebook.
- Social Proof — People will do things that they see other people are doing – one of the main mechanics behind many of Facebook’s new advertising products. By highlighting brands that others are engaging with, the platform is activating the theory of social proof.
- Authority — People will tend to obey authority figures, which is why media still remain an important part of the mix. Yet, I would argue that this has expanded to include fictional authority figures such as Flo the Progressive Girl, and should also include those who are influential in niche communities, such as Quora or forums
- Liking — People are easily persuaded by other people that they like. Cialdini cites an example I love — the marketing of Tupperware, which brings back memories of my mother’s Tupperware parties in the 70s. Keller and Fay point to the importance of this type of face-to-face interaction, something groups like House Party now offer. Brands and marketers can activate real-life connection points, based on the fact that people are more likely to buy if they liked the person selling it to them.
- Scarcity — Perceived scarcity will generate demand. For example, saying offers are available for a “limited time only” encourages sales. Uniqlo has this down to a tee(shirt). Tell the consumer there are only 500 limited-edition Jil Sander outfits in stock in your New York store, add a velvet rope and make them line up overnight. Wait a week, then repeat. And repeat. And repeat.
Do you have any examples of effective programs driven by Cialdini’s theories? Or thoughts on Keller and Fay’s views on WOM?